A distant relative's plea to the president

A distant relative of President Obama is asking the administration to send personnel to help conduct Indonesia’s upcoming elections.

In a letter to Obama dated Friday, Raditya Putra Pratama Trisulo urged the president to help ensure his country’s presidential election in July is free and fair. The 2009 election, he explained, posed problems for voters at the polls.


“The stakes for free, fair, credible and peaceful elections in Indonesia could not be higher. The environment for manipulation and fraud is ripe,” he wrote to Obama.

Raditya is a nephew of Obama’s maternal half-sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng. Obama spent part of his childhood in Indonesia with her in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Obama, Trisulo said, has inspired him to run for a seat in Indonesia’s parliament. A photo obtained by The Hill from last November showed them meeting each other in the Oval Office.

“Mr. President, I urge you to stand with us in Indonesia. Call on the Indonesian government to allow international elections support and monitoring missions. Send American democracy organizations to help us conduct these elections,” the letter says.

The current Indonesian government, he claimed, is preventing impartial polling monitors from observing this year’s elections.

Trisulo wants Obama and Congress to send over organizations to monitor the elections such as the International Republican Institute (IRI), the National Democratic Institute (NDI), the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) and the Carter Center.

Indonesia’s presidential election will be held in July. Voters will elect a new president for a five-year term, as incumbent President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who has served since 2004, cannot run for a third term in office.

Obama last visited Indonesia in 2011 for the East Asia Summit, but canceled a trip to Asia that included a stop there last October because of the government shutdown.

As part of his Asian “pivot,” a trip to the region has been rescheduled for April, but Indonesia is not on the list. For now, Obama is expected to visit Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines.

In 2010, a statue depicting a young Obama was erected in Indonesia’s capital of Jakarta, and initially placed in a public park. A group of Indonesians, however, protested the placement of the statue and argued it was more appropriate for the statue of a native.

A week later, the statue had been moved to the elementary school Obama attended as a child.